At the end of the day, it will take one engineer to decide whether Karachi will get more water from a monstrously delayed project called K-IV. That engineer’s name is Syed Murad Ali Shah.
The chief minister is arguably the most powerful man in the province’s administration, but he is in the unenviable position of having to get this project done. It was started in 2002, much before he knew he would be in office. By 2018, when he was CM, he had to bring its construction to a grinding halt because there were so many flaws in its design and how it was being built.
K-IV’s proper name is the Greater Karachi Bulk Water Supply Scheme. It is a 121km canal network that is supposed to bring 650 million gallons a day of filtered water to Karachi. It is still stuck at the first phase of construction for one-third or 260mgd.
The contract for the design and supervision of K-IV was awarded to Osmani & Co. in 2014. The FWO was asked the construct it in 2016.
When construction hit snags, the CM formed a steering committee in 2018 of senior bureaucrats and experts to get together to decide what needed to be done. The steering committee held its first meeting on June 11, 2020, nearly two years later. It was chaired by one of the province’s most senior bureaucrats, Muhammad Waseem, who heads the Planning & Development Board.
Digital acquired minutes of the meeting, from which it appears that even the
steering committee has been unable to reach a strong, clear position on a
successful solution for this long-delayed project. It has thrown the ball back
into the CM’s court by saying that the outcome of all the discussions in the
shape of recommendations should be put before the Sindh Cabinet.
the steering committee met June 11, it was given a full detailed briefing on
the problems by the man in charge of K-IV, its fifth project director, Assad
Zamin. Some highlights are:
1. K-IV was initially assumed to cost Rs25.5 billion but when work started, it became clear that it would cost a lot more. To date Rs11.9 billion has been spent.
2. The budget didn’t have any mention of important infrastructure needed beyond the basic canal (such as roads, bridges, staff colonies, transmission lines for three filter plants, workshops power supply).
When the design was independently checked by outside experts, many serious
flaws were pointed out.
The delay grew so serious that the Water Commissioned headed by Justice (retd) Amir Hani Muslim stepped in and passed several orders on the missing works. In September 2019, an Inquiry Commission on Debt formed by the federal government also raised serious concerns.
was against this backdrop that the government decided to halt work and review
the problems. A steering committee, technical committee and sub-committee were
formed to come up with a solution.
the project grew unwieldy, the World Bank, which has been well-disposed towards
the Sindh government, committed to finance K-IV’s augmentation. Augmentation
means connecting the canal by new pipelines to the existing KW&SB Karachi
city network of pipelines. The WB said it could put it into its KWSSIP.
For its part, the FWO said that it proposed to the CM that instead of splitting the 650mgd into three canals, building one at a time, they scale up the project and build one big one in one go.
Nespak and international firm Deltares went through the Osmani design. They pointed out the serious flaws. Osmani rejected their assessments during technical committee meetings. The arguments grew bitter. In the end, the two smaller committees told the steering committee this:
didn’t think a new route was needed.
2. The FWO’s plan to scale up was rejected. It recommended just doing the first phase for 260mgd.
Osmani was supposed to fix its designs, do more assessments and tests based on
the Nespak points. And it would submit a completely modified design at no extra
4. The FWO would have this new improved design checked.
Osmani would give the government new costs and budgets based on its new design within
6. The WB would take care of augmentation.
The sub-committee and technical committee made these recommendations but several members attached dissenting notes, which meant that there was not complete agreement that this should be the way forward. The steering committee went through all of this and ultimately felt that technical or engineering evaluations were beyond its mandate and expertise. The best thing it could do now was refer the matter back to the Sindh government.